The jewel in the crown among ABC's powerhouse daytime actresses, Erika Slezak has played the role of the patrician, but approachable Victoria "Viki" Lord on "One Life to Live" (1968-present) since 1971. Whether it's portraying a split personality, love interest, fierce rival or devoted mother, Slezak's passionate performances have led to her being recognized as soaps' most honored actress.
Born in the entertainment capital of the world - Hollywood, CA, on Aug. 5, 1946 - Erika Alma Hermina Slezak grew up in a show business family. Her parents Walter Slezak, a renowned character actor (best known for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre"), and Johanna, raised Slezak and her siblings in a German-speaking household. Slezak didn't learn English until she was five years old. She was educated at the Scared Hearts Schools in Greenwich, CT and Philadelphia, PA. (An exceptional student, Slezak skipped the 8th grade.) At 17, she was accepted into London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Upon completing her studies, Slezak established herself as a professional actress as a member of the Milwaukee Repertory Company and also appeared on stage at the Alley Theater in Houston, TX. In March of 1971, she joined the cast of "One Life to Live" as the third actress to assume the role of Victoria, daughter of controlling patriarch Victor Lord. Slezak played the part for her entire television career.
Slezak became a favorite among viewers as Victoria conquered split personalities; loved and lost Joe Riley, Clint Buchanan, Sloan Carpenter and Ben Davidson; battled nemesis Dorian Lord; delivered three children (Kevin, Joey and Jessica); and learned that she had also given birth to two daughters (Megan and Natalie) that she did not meet until they were grown. In 1988, Slezak played two roles on the show in a time-traveling storyline - Vicki and her ancestor Virginia Fletcher. In the '90s, Slezak was given the unique challenge of playing six (!) different personalities (Niki Smith, Jean Randolph, Princess, Tommy, Tori and Victor) in addition to her role as Vicki. Typical soap opera fare, but Slezak's powerful presence and acting chops elevated the often times outlandish plot lines.
At various times, Slezak did vacate the role of Vicki for brief periods. In 1981, soap hopper Christine Johnson replaced Slezak during her maternity leave. Actress Judith Barcroft briefly stepped in for Slezak in 1987. Traditionally, Slezak would take off the month of August to vacation with her family. In 1996, Slezak took a rare departure from daytime to appear in the TV movie "Full Circle," based on the Danielle Steel novel.
Throughout the years, Slezak was honored for both her talents and her lifetime loyalty to daytime TV, emerging as the soap genre's most rewarded actress at the annual Daytime Emmys. She took home the gold in 1984, 1986, 1992, 1995, 1996 and 2005.